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Tangaroa Blue gives evidence to Senate Inquiry

senate inquiry smallTangaroa Blue stands for picking up rubbish off the beach. At the other end of the spectrum it stands for ensuring governments understand what the data is clearly showing about rubbish and debris in our environment, and what needs to change so we don't have to keep picking up other people's rubbish off the beach. We recently replaced our sandy shoes and dirty clean-up gloves with high heels and a suit to be an integral part of two important gatherings: The NSW & QLD Ministerial Roundtable on plastic bags and the Senate Inquiry into marine debris. Those are the opportunities where we can present what our 902 partners and over 50,000 volunteers have been working on over the last 12 years: the overwhelming evidence of the issue highlighted through data collected and submitted into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database.

The Ministerial Roundtable in Sydney brought together state and Commonwealth ministers, as well as representatives from local government, peak bodies, industry, retailers, environmental groups and scientific experts. The objective was to review the experiences of Australian jurisdictions who have implemented plastic shopping bag bans. There is a strong agreement across all sectors on a ban on plastic shopping bags in NSW and QLD within the next two years. Environment Minister Greg Hunt also announced that if the voluntary phase out of microbeads is not working by 1 July 2017, the Federal Government will take action to implement a ban in law.

At the recent Senate Inquiry scientists and representatives of environmental groups had the opportunity to voice their concerns, present evidence and suggest solutions about ocean plastic pollution. Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who instigated the inquiry, called debris a ‘critical problem’ and said the issue of plastic pollution in water was one of the main reasons he got into politics. Tangaroa Blue stated that enough research has been done to acknowledge that there is a major problem and that effective action is needed instantly rather than creating more delay by talking around this even longer. In some areas, Australia has some ‘prehistoric practices' in recycling and waste management, Heidi Taylor announced, and regional and federal management plans as well as the enforcement of existing legislation are pivotal to create much needed change. By April the Committee will present a report on their findings. When they left the room, one note was already scribbled all over their clipboards: “Let’s take action! The clock is ticking.”